Paris

I’ve dubbed my husband my personal travel agent.  When we travel, he researches and studies the area, with multiple trips to the library for travel books, guides and dvds on the area.  We watch movies that were filmed in the city we are traveling to, if available.  We watched The Bicycle Thief and The Talented Mr. Ripley before going to Rome. Before Barcelona we watched Biutiful and before leaving for Paris in September, we watched the Oscar nominated Amelie, which was thoroughly entertaining and I highly recommend.

There was so much to love about Paris, it is difficult to pick just one experience as a highlight.

We visited the Arc de Triomphe and the comedy of watching all these vehicles entering the chaos of the 6 lane, I guess it is 6 lanes since it isn’t marked, each vehicle jockeying for position, was memorable and extremely entertaining.

DSC_1101_arc_de_triomphe

The same could be said for viewing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. The sprawling palace/museum had much to offer and so much space, but the smirking lady was the main attraction.  Gregg and I scooted into the back of the crowd, who were jostling and working their way slowly to the rope that kept anyone from getting too close.  We quickly learned that waiting politely for our turn was not going to cut it, and were advised by several English tourists that it takes aggressive action, so we put on our hockey faces and made it to the front, so we could get a selfie with the lovely lady.

Mona Lisa Selfie

Gregg saved the Eiffel Tower for our last night in the City of Lights, and it was a wonderful finale. It was a Friday night, and the Metro was lively with street musicians working the car for a few Euros here and there, a group of teenage girls, giggling, laughing, boisterously talking over each other, and sometimes breaking into song together.  The streets near the Tower had many restaurants and cafes filled with tourists and locals enjoying a meal, a beer, or glass a wine.  It was a brisk, yet pleasant evening when we walked up the steps from the Metro Trocadero stop, and street vendors were out in force, displaying their wares every few feet, miniature eiffel towers that turned from yellow to blue, to pink, small flashlights that displayed a disco light affect, to name few.

Gregg chose the Trocadero stop so we could see the tower from a distance and take in the twinkling light show at the top of the hour.  We entered the open plaza that opened up to the Tower just as the light show ended, so we strolled the Paris neighborhood and stopped at a local pizzeria/cafe to have dinner and a drink, as we waited for the next light show, which did not disappoint.

Eiffel Tower

As we walked toward the Seine River and closer to the Tower, the area was alive with the chatter of the many people gathered to watch the spectacle, we walked past a group of ball room dancers, waltzing in the shadow of the tour.  We descended down a flight of steps passing a large bridal party as they were posing for the photographer.  We stopped on the bridge just short of the Tower to take a quick selfie and to enjoy this vantage point of the Tower.

DSC_0399

Toward the beginning of our week in Paris, Gregg and I enjoyed an evening stroll through the Jewish quarters.  My mind wandered to the cruelty and heartbreak that occurred in the very street I was walking.  I thought about the people that lived and worked on this street during the Nazi occupation and the fear they must have felt, and my mind jumped to the refugee crisis that the European countries are currently dealing with, and I wondered if we as a society have truly moved beyond the hate that spawned the Holocaust?  As we continued wandering these streets we came upon the Holocaust Museum or the Memorial de la Shoah located in the Marais district.  We walked past a wall filled with names, which I assumed would be the names of French Jews who were taken from their homes and sent to concentration camps, but the plaques on the outside wall, called the Wall of Righteous, is a memorial to French non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust, who helped their Jewish neighbors in some capacity  at a great threat to themselves. The names covered the wall on the city block where the museum is located.  It was thousands of names…

I’m grateful we serendipitously walked by this museum and this wall.  It gives me hope in humanity, that even though there can be hate, evil, destruction, as we were reminded of with the recent attacks in Paris, there are many people who will risk themselves, their comfort, even their own lives, to help a fellow human being.  That is the common thread between us regardless of gender, culture, religion, nationality, we are all human, created out of love, to be loved.

 

Doors

I’m drawn to photographing doors that I find to be interesting when I’m on vacation. Not original, really. A lot of people photograph doors. They can be interesting for many different reasons. From an architectural and/or decorative standpoint, but also for symbolic reasons.

I enjoy the personality of a home the front door can sometimes display, but I also think about how a door can represent an opportunity, an experience, a new beginning.  Lately, I’ve been praying a lot about my purpose and having the wisdom to recognize when God presents an opportunity, a door, that He wants me to open, to peek inside, to perhaps even to walk into.  Maybe it is because I’m at a transition point in my life.  My youngest is starting high school in the fall, and my oldest has just purchased his first home!  While the two in between are in that awkward in between stage of almost adult, but just not quite there yet, so I’m thinking about my future as well, and where do I want to put my energies, my time, my ideas.  Oftentimes, even though I enjoy painting, writing, designing, I don’t pursue an idea or put forth the effort, I talk myself out of it.  My self talk can be negative, that idea is dumb or how unoriginal, not talented enough.  Recently, on Elizabeth Gilbert’s facebook page, she had an excerpt from her soon to be released book (which I will definitely read), that resonated with me.  I also heard her TED talk on this subject of the creative process:

“Every day as artists, we must forgive ourselves.

We must forgive ourselves for the work not being as good as we want it to be.

We must forgive ourselves for missing yet another deadline.

We must forgive ourselves the times that we don’t show up in the studio at all — sometimes for months on end — because we have lost the energy or inspiration for it.

We must forgive ourselves for doing the same thing over and over again, when we really long to be original and sparkling.

We must forgive ourselves when we embark on a project and it completely and utterly bombs.

We must forgive ourselves for being jealous of other artists who seem to be better at EVERYTHING than we are.

Without constant self-forgiveness, you will never be able to keep on creating.

For me, I can only summon a sense of self-forgiveness when I remind myself that I am just a beginner.

We are all just beginners.

And the only thing a beginner can do, in order to improve, is to keep going.”

So I choose to forgive myself and keep trying to find that door, and I pray to have the wisdom to recognize that door as an opportunity given to me by God, and then have the perseverance and courage to knock, maybe try turning the doorknob, and perhaps even opening it and walking through.

Summer Vacations

Summer vacation usually meant a trip up north for my family. I loved being up north as a child. I recall a time when I could barely contain the anticipation to leave for the A-frame cabin my grandparents owned at Canada Creek Ranch, that I practically packed up the family car by myself. I was probably around 8 or 9 years old, and my dad was working afternoons at the Ford Motor plant, which meant he would get home around midnight or later. I so badly wanted to leave that night, that I packed up the car myself, at least that is my memory. The reality was I probably packed up only a fraction of the items needed to make the trip for a family of 5.

I waited up for my dad that night, hoping to persuade him that the only thing he had to do was drive, since I had already done the heavy lifting, but my mom was already asleep on the sofa, and my little sister and brother were snoozing comfortably in their beds, so the decision was made to wait until the morning to make the 5 hour drive up I75 and M33. I reluctantly went to bed, making myself sleep until it was time to leave in the morning.

My family didn’t leave the state of Michigan often on our family trips. Almost all of the time off my dad would get during shut down in the summer or during holidays, was spent going to the cabin. My childhood memories of our trips are filled with feelings of contentment, adventure, laughter, and love. Walking into the cool clear water of the lake; watching all the silver minnow reflect and scatter in different directions as my sister and I tried unsuccessfully to catch them.

Climbing the big waterslide, in the deep end of the lake, nervously for the first time. Being coaxed by my dad that he would catch me, that I would be ok, and finally letting go; splashing into the water to feel exhilaration and then relief, when my dad did grab and pull me up above the surface. And eventually, not needing him there anymore, feeling the strength and confidence to do the big slide on my own.

Going to the library, located in the Ranch’s clubhouse, and letting time slip away unnoticed, while searching the titles for the book or books that reached out to me and said, “Read me.” Spending hours laying in one of the beds in the upstairs loft or on the couch in the family room as I slipped away into the adventures on the pages, at an age when I wasn’t acutely aware of the passage of time.

Making the walk down the sandy hill, with my sister- my trusty companion in every adventure- with fishing poles and tackle box in hand to “Tibbets Landing.” Stopping to catch the baby frogs that were hopping and crawling their way to lake; delighting in our discovery of them. Than another time, we discovered a nest of frog eggs and tadpoles and ran up and down the steep sand hill to grab jars and supplies to catch these fascinating creatures.

Coming back to the cabin, after a day at the beach, for the delicious dinner or lunch prepared by my grandma, always with a dessert of some sort-maybe cake or zucchini bread or jello with cool whip. Never once worrying if my needs were going to be met, just the trust and confidence in knowing they would be.

Driving out onto the Ranch at dusk, with my grandpa or my dad at the wheel, as we talked quietly; arriving at the various Rye fields, with binoculars in hand, waiting, hoping to see an Elk or a herd of Elk searching for their evening dinner.

Spending our evenings playing cards, Rummy or Spit or the Marble game with one another. Laughing, joking, smiling, teasing, and loving one another, simply, in the everyday easy interaction of being a family together.

As a young mom, without much money, I took my little ones to the cabin, where they enjoyed some of the same simple pleasures I did as I was growing up. Spending time with their grandparents and great grandparents, with cousins, aunts, uncles and friends.

My grandparents are gone now. The cabin is listed for sale, and I’ve gone back to the cabin only once for a long weekend in the past 7 or 8 years. Family vacations now consist of airplanes, new destinations each time, and giving my children the opportunity to see places that I didn’t get to go, which I’m very grateful for.

But I’m also grateful for the memories I have as a child, for the slowness of that time. When an afternoon picking cherries or strawberries up north with my grandma and cousins was a time of fun and adventure. And the taste of the delicious strawberry shortcake or cherry pie that grandma would promptly make when we returned. And when I think on those simple, satisfying summer days, I know sometimes in this journey on earth, it’s about enjoying the people you are spending your time with, more than the where of the destination.

 

 

Last trip to the cabin  in September 2012

Last trip to the cabin in September 2012

Cabin 2012

Cabin 2012

La Boqueria

Wandering through a farmer’s market is one my favorite past times, and when we travel, if time allows, we search them out and wander through, taking in the sounds, smells and visual textures.

And one of the most visited markets, the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, on one of the busiest boulevards, La Rambla, did not disappoint.

Barcelona, Spain on a sunny March spring day.  The morning air is brisk as the sun starts to warm up to the mid 60’s.  We step out of our studio apartment out on the already bustling La Rambla and stroll a few blocks to enter under the decorative La Boqueria arch.  Merchants are busily setting out their wares, preparing their displays, some with the attentiveness of an artist or designer.

Our mission, since we had a small kitchen at our disposal in our hotel, Citadines aparthotel, was to purchase our dinner to prepare after a busy day of seeing as much of Barcelona as we could squeeze into our last day in this beautiful city.  Gregg and I don’t take “relaxing” vacations, so to speak, by the time we get back home, I’m usually exhausted.  Our vacations consist of a lot hiking, whether it is urban hiking or hiking trails.  This final day in Barcelona was no exception.

We finally decided on fresh lubina or sea bass, which we purchased from a woman who was dressed in white angora like sweater, wearing large blue rubber gloves up to her elbows, and a blood spattered apron.  It was a whole fish, and she offered to clean it, so she grabbed her knife, slit the fish belly, and gutted it quickly.  She immediately wiped her gloved hands on her apron,  and accepts our Euros with the blood covered gloves still on.

Upon exiting the crowded, loud market we had fresh asparagus, leeks, spanish olives and Spanish olive oil.  We also had a single lemon or as Gregg said he his best attempt at Spanish, leeemaaan, in our bag.

Gregg, being a creative and adventurous cook, made a delicious dinner, which we ate at the appropriate Barcelona time of 9 pm.

Barcelona via Rental Car, Trains & Metro

Learning to navigate in a foreign city is one of the more scary, exciting, exasperating, and comical experiences I’ve had.  It was true with Rome, Brussels, and now Barcelona.

First day and night in Barcelona?  You must try traveling by car, train and metro within your first 12 hours in the city!

Gregg and I arrived in Barcelona at 2:15 pm local time after a red eye flight from Detroit to Paris and after a confusing trip through the enormous maze of the Charles de Gaulle customs and airport to hop on our final flight landing us in Barcelona.  Once in Barcelona, we found our car rental office to pick up a manual shift, I’ll say it again, MANUAL, as in stick shift, Ibiza. I could never navigate a manual transmission in a bustling unfamiliar, foreign city, but Gregg did just fine, despite my back seat driving. (Although, he did have one crazy sharp left turn in a heavy traffic area, that I held my breath through, but in all fairness, my iphone maps told him to!).
After making it to our Hotel, we cleaned ourselves up, and decided to head to the Block of Discord on an overcast, breezy, end of winter day in Barcelona. Our hotel is across the street from the Barcelona Sants, which is basically the Grand Central Station of Barcelona, so we headed over. This is our first time in Barcelona and we know zero Spanish, so why not?
With map in hand (we didn’t look like tourists at all) we knew the name of the street we needed to get to, so after a brief stop at an Information center, where we were told we needed to get to Platform 13/14, we headed toward the row of self service ticket machines. This machine was not kind to us, even though we continued to choose the English symbol, it seemed to switch to Spanish, and at one point, Gregg put in his debit card and the machine seemed to be telling us that we couldn’t have any tickets and was not giving us back our card!  We thought it was gone forever, but we continued guessing at the Spanish prompts until it spit it back to us. Having it back and being very relieved to have it back, we decided to try it again, why not?  We did successfully retrieve it once, so we knew it was possible, so after choosing English again and having the prompts turn to Spanish, we did figure out that “Secreto” meant that we needed to put in the PIN number.

With our Train Tickets in hand, we proceeded toward Platforms 13/14. Once on the platforms, and spending several minutes starring at each Platform’s monitor information, and then looking at each other in puzzlement, we could not figure out which platform we were suppose to use to catch the correct train. Neither one said the street we needed, Passeig de Gracia, so after checking our Rick Steve’s and Frommer’s travel guides and scratching our heads, Gregg began going down the line of people waiting on the bench on Platform 13, asking if anyone speaks English. Thankfully, about the forth person on the bench, a young man with long hair, knew enough English to convey to us that Platform 13 was where we needed to be and our stop was just the next one on the train route.
Upon emerging from the train station at the Gracia stop, we found no visible street signs, but after huddling together over a map, we found our way to the Block of Discord. Barcelona is a bustling, vibrant city, and we saw the beautiful and imaginative architecture of Antoni Gaudi lite up against the dark, cloudy Barcelona Sky. First with a stop outside of Casa Batllo, then to Casa Lleo Morera, and a few blocks further at Casa Mila.

Of course, we couldn’t go back the same way we got there, so after an adventurous Tapas dinner, we once again broke out our maps, this time for the Metro.  The Metro was a bit easier than the trains, since the various lines are color coded.  We found the nearest station for the Blue Line back to Barcelona Sants, and once again found ourselves at a self service machine that seemed to only show options in Spanish, but we managed to purchase our tickets, and we knew we were finished because a short woman just stepped in front of us to use the machine while we were discussing if we needed to press any other buttons to complete the transaction.  As we are purchasing our tickets, I’m enjoying the Spanish music that I assumed the Metro Station was providing as ambiance.  As we walked toward our platform, I realized it was a street performer, with his boom box playing the music while he was set up with his microphone, singing and dancing to the music.  I wished I had a Euro to throw in his collection plate, but we hadn’t stopped at a bank yet, so I just smiled to show my appreciation.

We found the correct platform after much laughing and map checking almost missing getting off at Barcelona Sants, since we both were lost in people watching and thoughts of our days journey.

 

 

 

Rainbow Row

I usually choose sleep. But not this time, this trip I decided to rise with my early bird husband. Our time in Charleston would be short, and I was determined to visually soak myself with as much of this city as I could. Gregg always gets up before sunrise on our vacations, as a photographer, he likes the light as the sun peeks over the horizon, and I have to say after finally getting up with him and experiencing it myself, I have to agree with him.

With coffees and cameras in hand, we hopped in our Subaru and headed toward East Bay Street. The city was just beginning to stretch its legs, the streets were quiet, with the exception of a lone resident or two walking their dogs or clocking in their morning run. The darkness of the night was slowly fading to gray as we found a parking space next to St Michael’s church on Broad Street. We finished our now lukewarm coffees, gathered our cameras and headed down toward the Harbor.

In a park, overlooking the Harbor, a small group of people were going through the motions of sun salutations as the sun began its ascent.  We ventured toward the water and Waterfront Park as the sun made its grand appearance, showering the water with various shades of orange, yellow and pink.

We felt unhurried, as it seemed this city did, as it began its Tuesday morning. We walked up and down Rainbow Row enjoying the colorful assortment of Georgian Row Houses, which also delighted the senses with the overflowing flower boxes and planters. Tuesday was garbage pick up day on this side of the city, so trash containers lined the sidewalk as we walked up and down alleys and cobblestone side streets, stopping to snap photos on our journey.

I can’t say I will always pass on sleeping in when Gregg and I venture away from home, but I won’t choose to sleep in every time any more.

 

 

Blue Star Highway and Chicago Blues

This summer has felt like a whirlwind; in fact, every summer seems to arrive and leave more quickly each year.  Why does it seem like time accelerates with each birthday?  We made it back to the Blue Star Highway and over to the Windy City this summer.  Each experience was filled with laughter, family, friends, and stories.  Stories being exchanged as we drove along the Blue Star Highway and wandered around various antique shops hunting for that unique item to call our own.  Stories being created while being together that we may eventually share with others while on another wandering.

family

A few days after our Blue Star Highway excursion, my job took me to downtown Chicago for a conference, and I was able to reconnect with several of my colleagues/friends since moving from the state of Utah back to Michigan.  Gregg decided to take Friday off work and meet me on Thursday night so we could spend Friday night and Saturday taking in some of the highlights of Chicago.  I had also invited my daughters, but Evan had to work and Hannah did not want to spend anytime with her “annoying” mom, so Gregg and I left them home alone, for 2 nights.  Or that was the plan… they are 18 and 20, so they should be able to handle taking care of themselves for at least 2 nights, right?

Friday morning, I call to check in, and trouble was brewing.  My girls were arguing and the plans they had to spend Friday together driving over to friend who lived on the Lake Michigan shoreline and  go to the beach had unraveled, partly due to weather, partly due to their bickering and no longer wanting to spend time together.  I spoke to both, and of course the story was a little different from each daughter.  Evan, who was with her boyfriend, and out and about because one, she has a driver’s license and two, she has a job and some disposable income, was fine with the turn of events, but Hannah was, let’s put it this way, not dealing with the situation well.  Even though she is 18 and graduated from high school, the process to get her driver’s license has taken an extremely long time, and she still did not have it, so she felt stuck and alone.  So, I bought her a train ticket to come to Chicago that night.  We spent Friday night and Saturday together as the 3 Amigos, Gregg, Hannah and I.  And it was good.  It was surprisingly good!

The dynamic between the 3 of us has been a struggle a lot of times, but I felt empathy for Hannah’s situation, and as her mom, I want to be a soft place to fall, for her to know that when she is feeling alone she can turn to me, so I took the chance on bringing Hannah over, worried that she would be sour and pouty, but she, well she wasn’t.  She was easy going, relaxed, and except for one brief moment when she didn’t get to go shopping when she wanted and instead I dragged her through the Chicago Institute of Art, Magritte exhibit, we had a pleasant day and half in Chicago.  In fact, we took in a lot of Chicago in the brief free time we had:

We walked through Millennium Park and said hello to “the Bean” which is sculpture officially known as Cloud Gate.

Chicago Bean

 Under Cloud Gate

Walked down Lakeshore Drive and took in the views of Lake Michigan and Navy Pier.

Lake Michigan

Hannah & Dawn Chicago

Visited Buckingham Fountain.

Buckingham Fountain

Browsed through history, culture, and art at the Chicago Institute of Art.

Chicago Institue of Art

Attended a Chicago Cubs game at historic Wrigley Field!

Chicago cubs

Wrigley Field

 

We even took in some classic Chicago Blues at Chicago’s Oldest and Largest late night Blues Club, Kingston Mines!  And we had Cheezborgers at the famous Billy Goat Tavern!

And all of that was fun and I’m happy I had the opportunity to visit the Windy City this summer, but the real joy for me was getting to enjoy Gregg and Hannah’s company together, meaning at the same time!  Which I think may have been the first in a very long time.

 

 

Tübingen Germany

While on our summer vacation in Germany, my parents and I took several day trips to explore nearby villages and towns, while Gregg was attending his training.  Germany was beautiful!  Our drive surrounded us with rolling green hills and fields which contributed to a feeling of spaciousness.  Germany’s highways and cities seemed clean and unblemished compared to back home.   And nestled into these rolling green hills and expansive fields are quirky, yet beautiful villages, towns and cities.

IMG_0548 IMG_0570

IMG_0579 IMG_0573 IMG_0565

My parents and I took off in the rental car on a sunny July day and navigated the AutoBahn in order to visit the college town of Tübingen based on the recommendation of my mother’s friend.   The winding cobblestone streets housing shops, restaurants, and cafes with the Neckar River serenely flowing through the center of the town led to a very enjoyable and visually  adventurous afternoon.  The city was lively and filled with a variety of people enjoying the pleasant sunny afternoon.  We meandered up and down streets and alleyways taking in the sights while trying not to lose our way, which seemed to be a concern of my dad’s.

IMG_0535

IMG_0577 IMG_0553 IMG_0583 IMG_0555We decided to break for lunch at an Italian restaurant that had a view overlooking the river.  The waiter opened the window at our table so we could see the river more clearly and feel the warm breeze.  To our amazement, the window had no screen!  In fact, nowhere in Germany could I find a window that had a screen!  I guess bugs are an American invention? In our hotel in Ludwigsburg, we slept with the screenless windows open every night and did not get bothered by a mosquito or fly!  I find this to be amazing!

IMG_0550 IMG_0547

We watched passengers take lazy gondola rides up and down the Neckar River as we sipped our Pilsners and feasted on freshly made pasta.  The waiter was a friendly man who spoke Italian, German and some English and attempted to give us directions to the local Weinerwald.  My parents had frequented their local Weinerwald when they lived in Erlangen in 1968 & 1969, and wanted to visit one again, if one could be found, and after asking many different people while we were in Erlangen and getting no results, they had about given up and thought that the restaurant chain had gone out of business.  But on a whim they asked our gray haired Italian speaking waiter if he ever heard of Weinerwald and he said yes! They were very excited and a stop at the local Weinerwald was put next on our list!  Unfortunately, Weinerwald stayed an elusive place destined to remain a distant memory from the past because we were unable to locate it.

We ended up taking a scenic route, avoiding the Autobahn, back to our hotel.

IMG_0542IMG_0568

I learned a lot about my parents on this trip, about their life together before they had children, how their memories of the same time and space could be so different at times, and about who they were as people 44 years prior.  It was a day filled with laughter, reminiscing, and the creation of new memories.  It was a day well spent.

San Francisco

Gregg and I are beer geeks.  It’s true.  Well, I think Gregg is more geeky when it come to beer than me because he is a home brewer, so he is interested in the chemistry and science of the brewing process.  I, on the other hand, prefer just  to enjoy the end result.  We both enjoy the complexities of craft beer much the same way some people enjoy wine.  We enjoy attending beer pairing events and learning how certain styles of beer will compliment certain flavors in food.  When we are on vacation or on even on a day road trip, we seek out the brew pubs in the area.  The local brewpub is part of the unique make up of that community or geographic area.  The pubs are a meeting place of diverse yet like minded people and have their own personality.  They usually reflect the disposition of the brewer or owner.  When you are in a brewpub you can usually tell if the owner has a sense of humor, is a rebel, or maybe is extremely meticulous.  It is always interesting and entertaining.

We enjoy sampling a seasonal beer that is made from local ingredients.  It’s interesting how different the same style beer can taste when made by two different brewers or the combinations of flavors that some brewers experiment with.  And usually the food is just as good and interesting.  Brewers and Brewpub owners care about ingredients, about process, about what it takes to make a quality product, and that carries over into the food they serve.

A few summers ago we embarked on a west coast adventure that included stopping at a series of west coast breweries and pubs.  It was awesome!  During our road trip, we stayed a few days in Sonoma County (sampling a few wines too!), and decided to take a day trip over to San Francisco.  We drove over to the Marin County Ferry service and took the Larkspur over to the Port of San Francisco.  We left early and spent the entire August summer day in the foggy, breezy, and temperate city.  Gregg had our itinerary prepared.  One thing I love about him is his enthusiasm and detailed planning for our vacations.  He studies an area and lays out a fairly ambitious schedule, which we usually have to eliminate several items because I prefer to travel at a more relaxed pace.  But on that day we definitely explored the city at brisk pace and saw most of the San Francisco highlights, such as,

Alcatraz.

DSC_0001

The Golden Gate Bridge.

DSC_0285_SF

Fisherman’s Wharf.

DSC_0334n

Ghirardelli Square.

DSC_0325_SF_FW

Pier 39.

DSC_0350

The Cable Cars and Lombard Street.

DSC_0296_SF_TC

And, of course, a couple of San Francisco brewpubs!

21amend

Our first stop, after disembarking from the ferry was to walk and find one of the city’s brewpubs.  It was a bit of a hike, but when we arrived we relaxed, had lunch, and enjoyed a locally brewed beer at the 21st Amendment Brewery.  Their Slogan is Celebrate the Right to be Original with Beer Names like Brew Free! Or Die IPA, which was my choice, and Sneak Attack Spiced Saison, and Fireside Chat Winter Spiced Ale.  The food was also delicious, I tried one of their specialty salads.  The atmosphere was relaxed  and the place was bustling with a lunch time crowd.

21amend1

Gregg, of course, had to seek out the brewer and take a short tour of the production area to see what their set up and brewing process is like.

21amend2

And after a day of exploring San Francisco which included a satisfying dinner at a restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf with some world famous Sourdough Bread, we ended our trip, waiting for the evening ferry at the Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant.

San Fran Gordon B

Gorde Biersch beers are traditional German Style beers, Pilsners, Dunkels, Bocks.  The original brewer, Dan Gordon, was the first non German accepted into the German Brewing Institute.  The feeling inside this brewery was more industrial and large scale, but was an enjoyable way to end our adventure in this city.

DSC_0356

It was a day well spent.

port

Lake Michigan

This winter has been particularly brutal, even by Michigan standards, well maybe not by Upper Michigan standards, but for us trolls, or Michiganders who live under the bridge, it has been long, snowy winter with many bitterly cold days and nights.  So with the temperatures warming up to a balmy temperature of around freezing,  we decided to to get out of the Buttercup house and head  to the Lake Michigan Shoreline.  I’m ashamed to say after living so close to Lake Michigan for the past year and a half, this was my first venture over there.  We had heard that the Lake was frozen almost completely across to Chicago, and after some research I learned the ice cover on the Great Lakes is at about 90%, which hasn’t happened since the winter of 1979, and is by far the greatest amount of ice cover in many years.  We also wanted to see some of the lighthouses standing among the snow and ice.  As we drove toward Lake, the grey skies dissipated and the color blue opened up before us with the warm sun shining down.  It felt wonderful!

South Haven

IMG_0965

We drove to South Haven, since it is home to the closest lighthouse and beach to us.  The beach and the frozen lake were filled with families, climbing the frozen waves and water dunes, and scrambling up the snow wall to the lighthouse.

IMG_0978

IMG_0972

We enjoyed the natural playground God provided for us this winter, and after a bit of climbing the frozen terrain and enjoying the sunshine, we packed it up and headed up the coast to visit the “Big Red” Lighthouse in Holland.   It was later in the afternoon and the sun was beginning its descent in the western sky, and the wind was picking up, so the 15 minute hike from the car to the Lakeshore and Lighthouse was cold and uncomfortable.   The bright red barn-like lighthouse was visually striking surrounded by the white snow and blue skies.

Holland's Big Red

IMG_0988

My plan sometime in the near future is to pull out my oil paints and try painting a few of the images I took of Big Red.  I think these could be interesting depending on painting techniques used.

IMG_0995

Of course, an outing wouldn’t be complete for Gregg and myself without stopping into a microbrew pub, so we ended our day at New Holland Brew Pub for dinner and a craft beer.  I tried their home style chicken pot pie, and frankly was a little disappointed, but Gregg’s Pastrami on Rye was delicious and Donovan’s Pizza was excellent too.  The beer was very tasty as well.  I tried the Hopivore, a wet-hopped Harvest Ale and Gregg had their Dragon’s Milk Stout and both were delicious.  We ended our frozen, winter adventure with a Dragon’s Milk Brownie Dessert.   Yum:)  This was a good winter day.